GREEN BAY — Donald Trump delivered a free-wheeling riff to backers here Saturday night, laying out how they were being ripped off by other countries on trade and military spending, but finally had a president who was loyal to them, not a corrupt system.
Trump’s nearly 90-minute speech at the Resch Center hit on everything from immigration to the NFL draft, as he used San Francisco 49ers pick Joey Bosa as an example of his support among young people.
He also cast his supporters as hard-working patriots who he’d rather spend time with than anyone else as he came to Green Bay instead of the White House Correspondents Dinner, which he skipped for the third straight year. Trump told backers the Mueller probe, which he called a “witch hunt,” wasn’t just about him, but “about stopping you.”
“You were betrayed by dishonest people. You were betrayed by stupid people. You stared down a corrupt system that enriched itself at your expense,” Trump said, adding his supporters “took back your country” with his election in 2016.
Trump cast his predecessors as either too weak or too inept to negotiate better terms on trade and the military support the U.S. provides other countries. He also bragged about foreign leaders telling him they’d never had someone else address them the way Trump had.
He said that included a call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
“I call the king. I like the king. I said, ‘King, we’re losing our ass defending you, king, and you’ve got a lot of money,’” Trump said, adding the king responded no one else had made such a call to him.
“I said that’s because they’re stupid.”
The trip was a return to the Green Bay media market, which many believe will be key to Trump’s hopes of winning Wisconsin again in 2020. He beat Clinton three years ago by nearly 11 points in Brown County, where he rallied supporters and sprinkled Wisconsin references throughout his speech.
He said when Wisconsin’s timber industry was threatened, he took action and “saved countless timber jobs all across this great state.” He recalled fighting Canada over tariffs on dairy products and tussling with India over tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
He also touted Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding of Sturgeon Bay signing an agreement with The Interlake Steamship Co. of Ohio to build a U.S.-flagged Great Lakes bulk carrier. It is believed to be the first of its kind to be built in 35 years.
Trump called on supporters to help him get Congress to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“Put a lot of pressure on these geniuses we have over here,” Trump said.
He also told the crowd some suggested he may have to cancel his trip to Wisconsin due to a late-April snow storm. But he told backers he pushed back, “like hell we’re going to cancel” and the people who are most frequently wrong are “the weather forecasters and the political analysts.” The heavy snow was forecast earlier in the week to be well south of Green Bay, and the storm didn’t hit the area.
Ahead of his speech, state Dem Chair Martha Laning slammed Trump’s “lies.” She said the president had promised the health care system would be better and less expensive, but premiums for those with preexisting conditions spiked in 2018. She also accused the president of proposing billions in cuts to Medicaid after promising to protect the program and pushing a tax plan that increases the tax burden for lower- and middle-class Wisconsinites by 2027, the year after individual income tax cuts expire without congressional action.
“When Trump describes his plans as the ‘biggest’ and the ‘best,’ what he really means is the biggest and the best for himself and his wealthy, powerful friends, not everyday working Wisconsinites who are just trying to make a good life for themselves,” Laning said.
Ahead of the president’s speech, a series of speakers warmed up the crowd, which regularly broke into chants knocking two of the president’s favorite targets — Hillary Clinton and the media.
The speakers included U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, who voted with Dems on an effort to block the president’s emergency declaration to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. After he started speaking, a chant of “Build the wall!” began.
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, followed, mocking Dems as infatuated with Russia and telling the crowd Clinton was the only one who’s guilty of obstructing justice. That sparked another chant of “Lock her up!”
The chants continued as Trump fed a series of zingers to backers, who cheered and laughed with each line, some of which he has trotted out before. That includes hitting Dem presidential candidates Bernie Sanders (Crazy Bernie), Job Biden (Sleepy Joe) and Elizabeth Warren (Pocahontas).
He called Dems left-wing extremists, said the false report by actor Jussie Smollett that he was attacked by Trump supporters was a “disgrace” and wove into his speech a series of jabs at the media.
He ripped the media as “fakers,” promoting a chant of “CNN sucks!”
“You know what sucks? Their ratings,” Trump said to laughs.
Trump made one reference to Tony Evers as he went into a riff on abortion saying, “just last week, your Democrat governor,” hinting at Evers’ recent vow to veto a “born alive” bill now working its way through the Legislature. That prompted boos from the crowd before Trump announced, “Your Scott Walker is here.” The former guv then received a standing ovation from many in the crowd.
Trump also hit on a crowd favorite with immigration and his pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
He said his administration is looking at sending illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities, bragging, “I’m proud to tell you that was actually my sick idea.” Following the first reports of the proposal, the Trump administration denied it was under active consideration.
Trump singled out GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, in the crowd. The Oshkosh Republican has been working on a proposal to change the asylum process, which Trump decried as a “catch and release” system.
“Ron Johnson is going to do it,” Trump said. “Will you get it done for me, please? No, get it done for Wisconsin.”